Posted January 08, 2014

Saints seek unlikely redemption in playoff rematch with Seahawks

New Orleans Saints, NFC South, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks
Drew Brees threw for just 147 yards on Dec. 1 at Seattle's CenturyLink Field.

Drew Brees threw for just 147 yards on Dec. 1 at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

RENTON, Wash. — Drew Brees’ last two games in Seattle have been a mixed bag, to say the least. In the wild-card round of the 2010 playoffs, he attempted a career-tying mark of 60 passes, completing 39 for 404 yards and two touchdowns. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, however, trucked the Saints defense on a 67-yard touchdown run that was one of the most amazing in postseason history and created a seismic event in the Emerald City. The defending Super Bowl champions were sent home in a 41-36 final.

And in Week 13 of the 2013 season, Brees had a nightmare of a return trip. Seattle’s league-best defense held him to 147 passing yards, his lowest total in a game with more than 20 completions. Brees finished the day 0-for-8 on passes of 15 yards or more, and the usually snappy New Orleans offense was completely muted. Now, the Saints have to come back to the scene of their most egregious statistical crime in years for Saturday’s divisional round playoff game, and Brees is more than aware of the pitfalls.

“They did a lot of things well,” Brees said Tuesday. “They rushed the passer well. They covered well. We didn’t feel like, at the end of the day we felt like we didn’t have much rhythm, we didn’t have many opportunities and so all of that is just obviously managing the circumstances, managing the crowd noise, managing all that stuff, finding ways to create rhythm within your gameplan, doing well on first down, getting yourself in a third and manageable position before they just pin their ears back and come back to you. The more balanced you can be is better. Hopefully you can make some big plays and take advantage of some opportunities. It’s one thing that man coverage and bump and run does give you is that if you can get the ball in your guy’s hands and make someone miss, you have potential opportunities there.”

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In an article for TheMMQB.com last week, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman praised Brees’ ability to make adjustments on the fly, saying that, “He’ll struggle for a stretch and then go to the sidelines and look at pictures and then come back and attack the defense a new way. It’s almost like they installed a whole new gameplan.”

Of course, the ever-confident Sherman also added that, “He’s never done that to us.”

Brees respectfully disagreed.

“I actually did feel like we made adjustments. We were just down 34-7 in the third quarter, so on all of our drives after that we were going to for it on fourth down and not kicking field goals. We got down in the red zone two times in the fourth quarter and didn’t make it in fourth down. We had some errors on our part in regards to getting lined up and running the plays as we had game-planned for in practice. Some of that was on us. I feel like we’ve always been pretty good at that and hopefully we’ll continue.”

One of those red zone plays was particularly worrisome for the Saints. With 12:23 left in the third quarter. The Saints had 2nd-and-18 at their own 9-yard line, and they were down 27-7. Seattle put 10 in the box, begging Brees to throw against their aggression, and he couldn’t do it. New Orleans called a timeout, and there was no score.

“That we have trust. We have trust in our players,” Sherman told me after the game when I asked him what that play meant. “We have trust in our scheme, and trust in the ability of our guys. We know what we’re doing — our coaches have 100 percent trust in the players and the scheme. They run a good scheme, and we attack.

“We played attack ball all day.”

They did, and they were able to attack a more vulnerable quarterback on the road.

During their week of preparation for their wild-card win at Philadelphia last weekend, the Saints joked about changing everything from the Gatorade to the player sweatsuits to the team meals. Whatever happened worked to the tune of a 26-24 win, but Brees’ road stats are still a concern, and they will be until they aren’t. His passer rating drops from 126.3 to 84.8 away from the Superdome, he’s thrown three times more picks, and his yards per attempt average plummets from 9.12 to 6.86. Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history — that’s not even open to debate — but trends are what they are.

So far, Pete Carroll has had Sean Payton's number.

So far, Pete Carroll has had Sean Payton’s number. (Ted S Warren/AP)

One thing head coach Sean Payton did to try to reverse the curse was to paint a Seahawks logo on his team’s practice field — all the better to replicate those hostile environs, one assumes.

“We are just trying to create the exact environment, the crowd noise, the field, everything, as best as we can,” Payton said. “Their fans are educated.  They understand when to be real loud and when to quiet down.  The way the stadium is structured the noise stays in.  We’ve experienced it a handful of times now and you just try to simulate it as best as you can and turn these speakers up real loud and go about trying to communicate and making sure you are still getting off on the ball and all of those things.”

So … stadium noise aside, and worrisome trends aside, can the Saints turn this around and actually win this game? They do have an interesting statistical oddity on their side — No. 1 seeds are 2-5 when playing six seeds in the postseason since 2005. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll has already warned his players to avoid expecting a similarly simple result in their rematch with the Saints.

“This is one of those answers that goes along with how you prepare every week,” Carroll said Tuesday. “The last game didn’t matter and who you played and how they played and all that doesn’t matter and this certainly applies to somebody that we’ve played before in the season. We know… it was like the first thing I had addressed in our team meeting when we came back together was, ‘What has happened in the past doesn’t tell the story of what’s going to happen in the future one way or the other.’

“If you’re not disciplined about that and understand that and appreciate that … then you could fall prey to that and think that ‘OK, something is going to be easier than otherwise’ or it could be so hard that we couldn’t be able to handle it. They [the Saints] could look at it the other way, ‘How can we beat those guys so handily after a defeat?’ But they’re not doing that and we’re not doing that and hopefully we’re really good at being focused on what’s up right now this week in this preparation.”

On the plus side, the Saints have been running better of late, and third-year man Mark Ingram has been the reason. Ingram provided a lot of the difference in the win over the Eagles, and giving opposing defenses something else to think about besides the pass is always a good thing where a quarterback of Brees’ caliber is concerned. On the debit side, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was able to pepper New Orleans backup defensive backs Corey White and Rod Sweeting after Keenan Lewis left the game with a concussion. Lewis is on track to play Saturday, but New Orleans is already without cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Kenny Vacarro, which limits the Saints’ options in pass coverage and in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s blitz packages. If Russell Wilson gets on a hot streak, New Orleans doesn’t appear to have answers for that downfield.

However, when I asked Carroll about Ryan’s defense and what the common threads might be, he surprised me by explaining that there are few common threads from appearance.

“Well, he’s using this personnel beautifully, they’re playing great defense right now. He’s always done a lot of stuff, and he continues to vary, which makes it difficult. Coming out of the Belichick program, you know [Ryan was Bill Belichick's linebackers coach from 2000 through '03]. Bill is a big guy in terms of varying week-to-week and defending the opponent, specifically not in just playing his defense. Rob has followed that to some extent. He’s always been noted for being very aggressive. They pressure a third of the time in all situations, so they’re coming after you. I’m sure that won’t change against us. We all grow and I think he’s at the best he’s ever been. This is the best group that he’s probably thrown out there, statistically.”

The Saints are as ready as they’re ever going to be, and they’re looking to reverse back to type against a team that forced them to play in ways that made little sense. The Seahawks are hyper-aware that the Saints they saw were as atypical as can be. If you’re looking for another earthquake, CenturyLink Field at 4:35 p.m. ET would be an ideal destination.

52 comments
JoanMcMullenKrupicka
JoanMcMullenKrupicka

I find myself wondering when Goodell is gonna man up and put the Squawks at the Super Dome to play for a regular season game.  As a season ticket holder who sits right behind the visitor bench, I literally cannot wait!  We know the Squawks can win some at home, but can they take on the dome?  Very, very doubtful, but until the NFL puts them there, well...................Saints fans know.

JoanMcMullenKrupicka
JoanMcMullenKrupicka

I love it how some of these teams grab themselves a running/scrambling QB, he has a good season, and suddenly they think they are invincible.  Interesting.  As we all know....nothing lasts forever!

Timmy-Time
Timmy-Time

Seattle: bigger, meaner, faster, smarter, stronger, and better.

PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

if we play our style of ball and we don't kill ourselves with mistakes then we win with the addition of Percy and beast mode running angry I don't see the saints stopping us 

Mech
Mech

The truth is Seattle just dominates the Saints at nearly every position and that dominance isn't going to change unless Seattle just takes a complete somersault into oblivion on its own. Physical domination is a constant,,, Brees is a great QB, but he cannot win with no one to throw to. Seattle is so much faster and so much stronger that the game will always be lopsided unless Seattle just doesn't take it seriously at all. Look for the Saints to score twice,,,,, and Seattle will kick three field goals and score(td) three times so ,,,, 30-14 every day of the week.

T. Jefferson
T. Jefferson

The Saints can win this game if the officials call pass interference and holding calls correctly.  The Squawks typically get away with their repeated mugging of receivers without getting flagged.

unitcaptain11
unitcaptain11

"The way the stadium is structured the noise stays in. "


This is such baloney. It's an open air stadium.  If any stadium is "structured" to keep noise in, it would be a dome stadium like the Saints play in.


It's loud in Seattle for the same reason its loud in KC: because the fans yell really loud.  Not because of the stadium.

x72
x72

Brees is arguably the best QB to ever play, I'll take the Saints to pull the upset here.

weir6
weir6

The Saints are arguably the most classless organization in all of professional sports.  I for one, hope they are destroyed.. their little run is about to be over as this team gets older and older.  

RCH
RCH

There are no guarantees in the playoffs. The Saints themselves found that out the hard way back in 2011 when the 11-5 Saints traveled to the lowly, no chance 7-9 Seahawks and lost.


What goes around.  

EdgarMartinez
EdgarMartinez

The Saints struggle badly on the road vs. good defenses. They didn't even look that great against the 28th ranked Philly defense.

Saintsman3
Saintsman3

Without Payton, Brees and Lewis, I'd say the Hawks are destined for SB victory.  With those three, I'd say it's a 50-50 shot.

AllThingsConsidered
AllThingsConsidered

Seattle is an obvious favorite to win that game but... Don't let what happened last time on Monday night fool you. Remember when the Pats crushed the Jets 45-3 at the end of the regular 2010 season just to be beaten by the same Jets in the divisional playoffs, also at Foxboro? The loser of the first game is more likely to learn the lesson of the defeat and come back with a better game plan. It's a fairly tall order because in spite of having won in Philly the Saints are not quite road warriors, but I would not be shocked if the Saints pulled it off.

Phllip
Phllip

It seems the media is setting themselves up for a disappointment again bringing up the Saints bad streaks . I give the advantage to the Hawks in this game for obvious reasons..first off the Saints are playing a team and QB who now has some playoff experience under his belt unlike the Eagles whom of which Brees faced a backup-turned starter QB within a 8 week period. Russell Wilson and his young explosive comrades felt defeat last year in the playoffs and i don't expect them to let Ingram beat them alone, as he did against the Eagles. However, Brees is an experienced QB who has a SB under his belt so this won't be an easy win..as i kept telling my fellow Eagles fans, u can never count out Brees' arm.

DanLeeper
DanLeeper

Love the Saints when I'm not rooting for my SeaHawks But put a fork in it, Seattle is going to win this game. I hope I'm wrong but I think is will be a close game. I hope the Hawks know what there in for, for all four quarters.

CRiver
CRiver

The Saints are just a perfect match-up for the Hawks at home since their whole offensive identity is built on audibles and substituting in different player packages. That type of play requires the offense to be able to communicate which is physically impossible in Seattle. They can install some basic hand signals and other adjustments during this week and try to go with more per-packaged run plays but very hard to otherwise do anything on a week's rest. Philly got burned by the run because they had to sell out to protect against the pass, Hawks secondary won't need the help and that is the difference in the game Saturday.

MaverickDunbar
MaverickDunbar

Seahawks win by a land slide. Completely dominated.

PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

@T. Jefferson you remind me of the pathetic forty whiners fans crying about our dbs holding while their dbs do the same thing get out of here with that nonsense every teams defense does holding and the Hawks don't do any more then any other team just because our defense is so dominate all the time you guys like to cry they hold all the time I've watched every game and most of the time it's just great defense forcing the guy to the out side then picking him off you mad bro

MR
MR

@T. JeffersonJust quit man.  I'm as big a Saints fan as any and this argument is lame no matter who you pull for.  Bottom line, the Saints have to play a complete game to have a shot. 

JoanMcMullenKrupicka
JoanMcMullenKrupicka

@weir6Obviously you know less than NOTHING about the Saints.  So go study up before making absurd comments such as the one above.  Ridiculous.  The Saints have some of the most classy, awesome, personable, charitable and ATHLETIC players in the NFL, bar none.  (Wondering why you are such a hater, but do realize that we Saints fans wish for you ten times what you wish for us).  So watch out what you wish for!  My prediction is that is the Squawks make it to the frozen SB this year, Peyton Manning wears them out!  ;)

MR
MR

@weir6I love when people snipe another team without telling you who they root for.  Every tree has its knots.

rePHIned2
rePHIned2

@weir6you must be related to AJ McCarron's mom...because you also say pointless and baseless things that indicate YOU actually lack class...

mpullard
mpullard

@weir6 Please provide your logic for the statement you made. How are they classless? I haven't seen any Saints players in the news for anything that would put shame on the organization. 

PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

@RCH doesn't come around since the aints are not 7 and 9 and they are not the Hawks or the beast mode guess your out of luck there 

Arthur7
Arthur7

@Saintsman3 Without Harvin, I'd say it might be 50-50


But the Seahawks are not without Harvin

PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

@AllThingsConsidered nor are they the Hawks they looked average and barely beat the feagles who are ranked 28th in the league in defense the Hawks are number 1 big difference there and we have Percy harvin back so our offense just improved a lot 

Timmy-Time
Timmy-Time

@AllThingsConsidered  

Forecast for the game: Drenching rain and winds 20-30. Seahawks 31 - Saints 7 

Seattle: bigger, meaner, faster, smarter, stronger, and better. 

rePHIned2
rePHIned2

@CRiveractually the constant changing of personnel is a weakness in terms of clock management and getting audibles called...it hinders no huddle and hurry up offense which they will need to fatigue Seattle's defense when they want to throw on them...I still think Saints will win though...but it won't be because Ingram rushes for 100 yards...it will be because they will small ball the heck out of Seattle and take their defense out of comfort...

DanMcNemar
DanMcNemar

Bahahahahaha...........oh, you were serious???!!!!

T. Jefferson
T. Jefferson

@MR@T. Jefferson 

Of course they have to play a complete game...duh.  But if you've watched the Squawks totally mug receivers without being called, how can Brees make a completion with Sherman draped all over your guy?  The defense has to contain Russell and keep him in the pocket like Arizona and S.F. did.  All those things have to happen but if the Squawks DBs continue to get away with murder, there's no way the Saints can win.  Read my post before you label anything lame.

unitcaptain11
unitcaptain11

@MR@unitcaptain11  

That link is just more speculation.  All it says is that roofs can reflect noise and the seats are "close" to the field.  

The seats are close to the field because the stadium is on a small piece of land, and because that is how stadiums are built.

 The roof sections make it loud?   Ok, so what happens in a stadium that has an even bigger roof, or a domed stadium?  Why aren't they as loud?  Because the fans don't yell as loud.


It's loud in Seattle because the fans yell loud.

DennyCrane
DennyCrane

@mpullard@weir6I imagine bountygate figures prominently in their thinking. An organization that pays players to intentionally hurt other team's players is more of a criminal organization than a sports team. Payton and the other coaches served their well deserved suspensions without a whimper.


If it hadn't been for a powerful union the players would have been suspended as well. Manning's career was derailed if not almost ended by a bunch of thugs who tried to unscrew his head from his body. The play is on film so there's no use in you trying to explain or defend this behavior.


So yes NO is a classless and possibly criminal organization with a bunch of thug coaches and players. As I'd rather see the 9ers play NO I rooting for NO this time but I hope they do take a great big whacking in Seattle. Perhaps a few of their own players take an injury. Justice.

JoanMcMullenKrupicka
JoanMcMullenKrupicka

@Timmy-Time@DanLeeper And definitely uglier.  I wonder if it is more disappointing to go ahead and get beat in this round, or wait until the one that really counts, and go down like the Titanic?  If you're lucky, you will find out!

PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

@rePHIned2 @CRiver ya keep telling yourself that lol not going to happen we got a great defense in all facets of the defense guys that will shut down the small pass and the long pass and rushers that will rush and sack the QB and run stuffers that will stop the running game but ya you tell yourself what you need to to feel better about your teams chances 

DanielDudley
DanielDudley

@T. Jefferson @MR If it was so obvious and not an attribute of other teams in the league you really think that they would have gotten away with it for 16 games all season? Is that what you position really is on this issue? You are suggesting that there is a conspiracy to allow this to happen that involves 50+ people


Come on man

unitcaptain11
unitcaptain11

@MR@unitcaptain11  

"Sounds an awful lot like structure to me."

A lot of stadiums have roofs and seats that point toward the field.


 An enclosed dome would be better for sound reverberation than the stadium the Seahawks play in. The old Kingdome was as loud or louder.  But todays NFL dome teams fans dont yell as loud so their stadiums are not as loud.

It's loud in Seattle because the fans yell loud. They put their hands to their mouths and just yell like maniacs when the other team is on offense. They have been doing that in Seattle since they played in the Kingdome.



PaulMaggard
PaulMaggard

@Jmac1970 @unitcaptain11 @MR actually the NFL made a rule about noise levels because of the Hawks in the Kindome or are you not old enough to remember that if they had done a world record attempt in the old Kindome then the Hawks fans would hold the record for loudest stadium in door and out door open air so stfu you moron


MR
MR

@unitcaptain11@MRYour own sentence - "All it says is that roofs can reflect noise and the seats are "close" to the field."

Sounds an awful lot like structure to me.

Jmac1970
Jmac1970

@unitcaptain11 @MR It doesn't just say that. The article very specifically talks about the acoustics and how sound is directed right at the field by the shape of the overhangs. Domes are not designed that way.


Why did Seattle set the record once they moved into this new stadium and not in the old one of they are so loud? Did everyone suddenly grow bigger vocal cords? Or could it possibly be the design of the stadium?